BOISE, Idaho — Even while serving a sentence with the Idaho Department of Correction, one woman says volunteering with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline has given her life purpose and hope.
"Even though I’m incarcerated and locked up, but when I hear one of those calls— it breaks my heart," said inmate Tamara Padilla.
Padilla is no stranger to mental anguish.
"I had an incident happen to me when I was 13 years old. I was raped. And so I turned to alcohol to kill my pain.... I didn't want to tell my family because I, I was young and, it was, um, kind of humiliating in a way," said Padilla.
Eventually, her self-medication landed her in prison on a felony DUI charge. Then almost three years ago, they moved her to a minimum custody facility, which offers non-violent offenders the chance to get a job in the community.
Padilla soon became one of the first inmates to volunteer with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline-- and not because she was required to.
"I had some family members who attempted but didn’t complete suicide, and so it’s something that’s dear to my heart," said Padilla.
Padilla went through 55 hours of training. She now answers calls every Thursday. Sharon Lightning, training coordinator, said she's one of the best volunteers they've had.
"She has empathy, and she can connect with people where they need to be, where they need to be heard. So she's very effective," said Lightning.
Padilla said helping people is, in a way, helping her in her recovery from addiction.
"I'm sharing my experience, strength, and hope, and am saying, 'Yes, this happened to me. And it's happening to you.' But here's the resources and here's what we can do to help this," said Padilla.
The Nez Perce tribe member now coming full-circle-- with a special aim towards helping her tribe, a tribe that the Department of Health and Welfare reports has a much higher suicide rate in its own county compared to the rate statewide.
"There is no hotlines like this up there, up in the rural areas, so that's why I'm glad I got into this so I could help my tribe, help my people," said Padilla.
Padilla has one year and nine months left of her sentence, but when she gets out, she says she plans on being a champion for hotline awareness-- a resource she wishes she'd had after her assault.
"I wish I would have had somebody to talk to about it, ya know, somebody I could just vent to, cry to," said Padilla.
Until her release, she's hoping she'll be granted Skype time with members of her tribe so she can speak directly to them about the hotline.
"I keep asking about it and keep pushing so hopefully it will happen," said Padilla.
Text or call the hotline at (208) 398-4357 to get 24/7 confidential help if you or someone you know is exhibiting warning signs or having thoughts of suicide.